Kartarpur pact stalled as Pakistan insists on pilgrim fees

Updated: Sep 05, 2019, 08:30 IST | Agencies |

The two countries have already agreed on visa-free travel of 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily throughout the year, without restrictions, based on their faith

SCL Das, jt secretary, Home, (centre), Deepak Mittal, foreign ministry (left) with Punjab govt official Hussan Lal. Pic/AFP
SCL Das, jt secretary, Home, (centre), Deepak Mittal, foreign ministry (left) with Punjab govt official Hussan Lal. Pic/AFP

No agreement could be reached on modalities for operationalising the Kartarpur corridor even in the third round of talks held on Wednesday as India rejected Pakistan's demand to charge a service fee from the pilgrims.

"Owing to certain differences on a few key issues, the agreement could not be finalised," said a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement. "Pakistan has insisted on charging a service fee for allowing pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which is not agreeable for smooth and easy access of the corridor. Pakistan has also shown its unwillingness to allow the presence of Indian consular or protocol officials at the gurdwara premises," it said, adding the Pakistan side was urged to reconsider its position.

The two countries have already agreed on visa-free travel of 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily throughout the year, seven days a week, without restrictions, based on their faith. The talks were held to discuss and finalise the draft agreement for operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor, the first visa-free destination between the neighbours since Independence, for Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders.

"This is our commitment to the pilgrims that this will be free of charge, so we persisted with a request but Pakistan has shown extreme inflexibility," SCL Das, Joint Secretary, Internal Security in the Home Ministry. Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters at Wagha that Pakistan has completed 90 per cent work and would open it ahead of Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary.

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